Hands off freed oil tanker, Iran tells US

Iran on Monday warned the US against any attempt to seize its oil tanker that set sail from the waters off Gibraltar after being impounded for six weeks.

If the US defies the warning, it would have serious consequences, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said at a media conference.

Port officials of Gibraltar, an offshore territory of the UK, had suspected that the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya1 (formerly Grace1), was illegally transporting oil to Syria which faces EU sanctions. The British Royal Marines, responding to their call, offered them technical help to board the ship at sea to conduct a massive raid on July 4.

Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz days two weeks later should not be linked to the seizure of Adrian Darya 1 that was carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil. Stena Impero was impounded for its failure to respect international maritime rules, Mousavi said.

Stena Impero is being held off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. A court is examining the case and it is likely to reach a verdict soon after the completion of the investigation, he said.

Commenting on Gibraltar’s order to release Adrian Darya 1, Mousavi said it was a blow to the US which thinks bullying and unilateralism can always work.

The US wanted the Iranian ship to be detained as it firmly believed that the vessel was destined for Syria and those behind the “illegal” shipments were Iran’s Revolutionary Guards whom they have designated as a terrorist group.

Gibraltar’s government rejected Washington’s request, saying the US sanctions against Iran are not applicable in the EU.

The Iranian tanker left for the Greek port of Kalamata but its final destination is not unclear. Iran is said to have given a written assurance to Gibraltar that its tanker will not head for countries which face EU sanctions.

In 2015, Iran had signed a historic nuclear agreement with the US, UK, Russia, Germany, France and China and the deal was working well until Washington, for no reason, left it three years later and re-imposed sanctions on the country.

The US launched of a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign and blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf. The presence of US warships in the Gulf raised fears of a war.

Tensions escalated after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down a US drone in June this year which entered into its airspace along with a manned spy plane. The guards spared the manned aircraft.

Days later, the US claimed downing an Iranian drone which flew dangerously close to the USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said it is not aware of the incident. This was followed by the Gibraltar incident.